A recent survey conducted by Tufts University uncovered the fact that most U.S. pet owners hold certain beliefs about dog food marketed for ‘senior’ pets that may or may not be true.
The majority of people surveyed (over 84 percent) believe older dogs should eat differently than adult dogs, but only about half of them feed a senior diet. The reality is nutritional requirements should be tailored to the individual dog -- not based simply on the age of the animal.
Neither AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nor the National Research Council (NRC) provides guidelines for senior dog formulas. There is no distinction made between the nutritional requirements for adult dogs and those for senior dogs. As a result, the ingredients used in pet food marketed for ‘seniors’ is determined by the manufacturer and varies widely.
According to Dr. Lisa M. Freeman, a professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts, pet food manufacturers "might be increasing protein, decreasing protein or keeping it the same.”
Survey respondents (as well as many veterinarians) generally believe senior dog food formulas are lower in calories and contain less fat, protein and sodium.
In fact, the 37 commercial senior formulas tested by Dr. Freeman and her colleagues didn’t necessarily have decreased levels of those three ingredients, and calorie counts per cup varied widely, from 246 to over 400.